Blepharitis is an infection of the eyelids. Some patients call it granulated eyelids. Almost everyone has some form of blepharitis. It is caused by a bacteria that is part of our normal makeup but then gets out of hand and concentrates on the eyelids and eye, a nice warm environment that helps the bacteria grow. Blepharitis causes a lot of problems for some people but not for others. Fortunately, blepharitis is relatively easy to treat. However, it is a chronic condition and needs to be taken care of on an ongoing basis, like brushing or flossing your teeth.
Types of blepharitis:
- Staphylococcus blepharitis is caused by a bacteria called Staphylococci, commonly known as “staph.” It often begins in childhood and continues throughout adulthood. This form of the condition results in dandruff like debris and scales on the lashes along with crusting and chronic redness at the lid margin. If left untreated, loss of eyelashes can result along with red inflamed eyelids. Eventually a blockage of the oil glands along the eyelid margins can lead to styes, also known as chalazia. In severe cases, the cornea, the transparent covering of the front of the eyeball, may also become inflamed and vision affected.
- Seborrheic blepharitis is a less common form of this condition. It is not an infection but is caused by improper function of the oil glands, which causes greasy, waxy scales to accumulate along the eyelid margins. Seborrhea may be a part of an overall skin disorder that affects other areas. Dandruff of the scalp, hormones, nutrition, general physical condition and stress are factors in seborrhea.
Symptoms of blepharitis:
- Itchy, burning, watery eyes
- Matter in the corners of the eyes on awakening
- Redness of the eyelids
- Frequent stye formation
- Tiny pimples on the eyelid edges
- Scaly skin flakes along the eyelid margins
- Gritty sensation leading to irritated eyes and light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
Causes of blepharitis:
- Poor eyelid hygiene
- Excess oil produced by the glands in the eyelid
- Bacterial infection (often staphylococcal)
- Allergic reaction
In addition to eliminating redness and soreness, treatment can prevent potential infection and scarring of the cornea. Your doctor will perform a complete eye examination to determine the most effective treatment.
- Cleaning, Massage and Warm Compresses
Usually, blepharitis can be controlled by massaging the lids, applying warm compresses a few times a day, and daily cleaning of the eyelashes. The best way is to use pre-medicated lid scrub pads (Ocusoft), available over the counter in the eyecare/contact lens product section of any pharmacy or grocery store. With this pad, clean along the lash margin (both upper and lower lids) with the eye closed for 20 or 30 seconds. Rinse with warm tap water. Turn the pad over and clean the other eye. REPEAT nightly for two weeks, then every other night as part of your daily hygiene routine. Your doctor may modify these instructions depending on your particular eye condition.
If you have small or large pimples or bumps forming on the lids, warm compresses and massage are even more important. Hold a warm washcloth against the eyelid with the involved bump or stye, massage and hold in place until it cools, then rewarm and repeat throughout the day.
Once the redness and soreness are under control, this cleaning and massage may be decreased from daily(usually at bedtime) to every other night. However, if the symptoms return, return to daily cleansing and massage immediately.
In some cases, your doctor may prescribe eye drops or ointment to be used along with the daily cleansing regimen. An antibiotic drop or ointment can be rubbed into the lashes and lids using a clean fingertip. As with any medication, there is a small possibility of allergy or other reaction. If the condition gets worse or you notice swelling of the lids, stop the medication and contact your doctor immediately.
For certain types of blepharitis, antibiotics taken by mouth are helpful. These will often improve the oil composition of the eyelid glands, leading to a healthier ocular surface. When taken properly, they are safe. Your doctor will determine if these medications are appropriate for you by taking a thorough drug allergy history. After assessing the informaiton he/she will write you a prescription for the appropriate oral medication.
Remember that although topical and oral medications may help control the symptoms of blepharitis, they alone are not sufficient; keeping the eyelids clean on an ongoing basis is essential!
If you think you may have blepharitis, your eye doctor can determine the cause and recommend the right therapy specifically designed for you.